Our first year and our aim for the future

What a remarkable first year it has been for The Word!

We knew it was going to be great, but I don’t think any of us expected it to be quite as spectacular as it has been.

Since opening last October, The Word has definitely exceeded all expectations attracting almost 400,000 visitors from far and wide as well as now winning 14 top industry awards including the region’s Best Public Service Building, Project of the Year and a RIBA National Award. Not to mention the several award-winning authors we have welcomed including David Baddiel, Val McDermid and Ann Cleeves.

We’re already onto our second major exhibition, Shiver Me Timbers: Pirates on Page, Stage and Screen, which opened in May and this year as has welcomed 75,000 visitors so far.

Before this we had the fantastic exhibition, Sir Ridley Scott: Past, Present and Future Visionary, which attracted 97,000 visitors in its six month run – I don’t think anyone will forget that alien for a long time!

But of course, we couldn’t have had these two spectacular exhibitions without the support of our sponsors, Port of Tyne.

We’ve also had the hugely popular Lost Dialect exhibition in our first floor pod which celebrates words that are slowly disappearing from everyday conversations. Over 2,000 words have been donated by visitors so far and we hope this continues to grow over the next few months so that we’re able to create the world’s largest bank of lost words. If you haven’t already donated, come and help us by leaving your own lost word!

Our exhibitions haven’t been the only success here at The Word. Since moving from  the Central Library into their new home at The Word, the library service has seen huge increases in memberships and people using the library. As well as this, OpenZone, a facility with provides ICT in schools, has also had a fantastic first year with thousands of school pupils being able to use the latest digital technologies including the Media Studio, FabLab and StoryWorld! It has been particularly great to have such a facility like FabLab in our building and so many people have been able to experience the cutting edge technology on offer. The Shop @ The Word has also proved very popular with over 65,000 visits alone!

We have held over 300 events in the first year with over 5,000 tickets bought – including author talks, writers’ workshops, storytelling, digital media sessions, poetry slams, performances and more.

There was also the first ever WRITE Festival in June which celebrated writing in all its forms and provided visitors with 5 days of unmissable events.

We have also pursued our aim of becoming home for North East Writers – we have had 5 Writer in Residence commissions so far and have welcomed a whole host of internationally-renowned writers to give author talks, hold workshops and host writing competitions.

As we head into our second year, we hope to continue all of this great success. We are beginning to work towards another major exhibition to open in spring 2018; there will also be our second WRITE Festival which we are hoping to make even bigger and better than this year’s; and something new to replace our hugely popular Lost Dialect exhibition in our Caer Urfa Pod.

It is our aim to continue to develop and grow as a national, cultural venue, we hope to add to the support available for writers as well as continuing to deliver a vast programme of performances and events for visitors to enjoy. To help us achieve this aim, we are asking people in the community to get involved in a variety of ways including our 2 new schemes that we’re launching this coming week which are The Word Champions, where we’re looking for friendly, approachable volunteers to help make a visit to The Word even more special, and our Young People’s Board where we’re seeking young people, aged between 14-19 years, to join a board which develops events and workshops specifically for their age group.

We’re very excited to see what the future might hold for us here at The Word and we hope that you all continue to enjoy what we have to offer. We would like to thank everyone who has supported us so far, including our sponsors and all of the visitors we’ve had!

Tania Robinson, Head of Marketing & Culture